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Phobias and Addictions as Manifestations of the Human Mind Weakness

Both phobias and addictions are two weak states of a person’s mind where one can be weak while thinking of or seeing something. They can really weaken a person and if a person has intensive phobias or addictions then he or she must consult any psychiatrist to resolve the problem (Neale, 2008).

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We can define phobia as a type of irrational and also constant fear of certain things (like persons, animals, activities and all). When someone’s phobia becomes uncontrollable it can cause anxiety disorders for the person which can seriously affect the regular life of the person.

Types of Phobia

There are numerous phobias but the most popular phobias that are seen like “hydrophobia (fear of water), hemophobia (fear of blood), necrophobia (fear of the dead), pyrophobia (fear of fire)” etc. (Chambless 2008, pp. 11-12)

Classical conditioning

Some phobias, like the fear of heights, the fear of spiders, and the fear of closed spaces can sometimes happen by a type of learning that is called Classical Conditioning. Still today, psychology cannot clearly understand the causes of specific phobias. The researchers say that several phobias arise from irrational fears of specific things like a simple spider cannot do any harm to a person, but still, the person has fear of spiders. But the researchers also reinforce a fact in the aspect. They say that specific phobias are sometimes directly caused by some kind of childhood trauma. And some of the phobias are genetic too. Actually, phobias like mentioned above can be learned through a specific type of learning and that is “Classical Conditioning” (Neale, 2008).

Ivan Pavlov’s test of dogs is a classic example of the case. Pavlov noticed that when the dogs are being fed, they salivate from the mouth. This is the reaction to a stimulus. He rang a bell before feeding the dogs for a specific amount of time. But once he did not provide the food to the dogs, but they salivate when they heard the bell. Actually, their bodies were accustomed to the process and this is known as classical conditioning (Neale, 2008).

Let’s compare it with a phobia. Some dogs that were not part of the experiment would not salivate to hear the ball, while the dogs that were part of the experiment would salivate. Same some people are afraid of spiders (and we may consider them as the dogs that were part of the experiment), but most people are not afraid of spiders. It can be a deeply encoded fear in the human mind that affects some humans to enact towards some aspects like a person who is afraid of spiders will always think that if a spider bites him or her he will die. It might be some other fears that make the person anxious when he or she sees a spider. So, every encounter with a spider will cause the person an anxiety result (Chambless, 2008). When the person sees a spider, the body experience a ready response of fear and anxiety, just as the experiment of Pavlov.

This Classical Conditioning can be used in the efforts of treating some phobias. Now, dog trainers are usually using Classical Conditioning methods to train the dogs. And it can be used for treating every canine behavior. Researches are going on at a steady pace to treat phobias by the process.

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Generally, the word “addiction” is strongly associated with the use of narcotic elements like alcohol, drugs and tobacco, also some chemicals that have the power to temporarily alter the chemical functions of the brain. Nowadays some strongly suggest that the word addiction can be also used if someone has psychological dependence on food, gambling, pornography, and other things. Actually, addiction is a psychological complexity that helps the person relive mentally if he takes the thing or does the work (Stepney, 2007).

But, in the basic sense, the word addiction is mostly used in cases of drug use and substance dependence. The addiction to these objects can take a serious toll on a human body and it also sometimes becomes responsible for premature death. There are a lot of processes by which a person can become addicted to drugs and also there are several processes that can be used to save a person from the addiction.

Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning can be defined as the process by which one can try to modify the form of the behavior of a person. It is also a type of Pavlovian conditioning that was discussed in the earlier portion of the discussion. It basically operates with the environment of the person and controls the person’s mind.

Scientifically, studies reveal that neurons respond in the ways of operant conditioning. Scientists like Rusty Richardson showed that nucleus basalis neurons are gets stimulated by a process of operant conditioning. And the effect in the cerebral cortex (Rehm, 2010).

If a person starts to take a drug of substance material, the material will start to affect his or her mind, and then we can say that the material is operantly conditioning on the persona and it is stimulating the person so that the person might feel some kind of relaxation in his life. We can surely say that operant conditioning is one of the most important aspects of addiction in the cases of humans. The basic tools of operant conditioning are reinforcement, punishment, and extinction and all are directly related to addiction, whether it may be drug abuse or substance abuse (Rehm, 2010).

Difference between Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning

In short, we can say that classical conditioning is passive on the part of the learner, actually, the person who is teaching the behavior is the most important part of Classical Conditioning. For example, Pavlov was an important part of the experiment with the dogs. The dogs were important too, but the importance was much less than Pavlov. But, operant conditioning is mostly dependent on the learner. If a person wants to take drugs he will take drugs, i.e. he will actively participate in a process. No one has forced him to take part in that process and he is on his own. He is basically responsible for his actions in this case. So the learner is the most important part in Operant conditioning while the teacher is the most important part in classical conditioning (Chambless, 2008).

One of the most important features of Classical Conditioning is that it does not provide any incentives. It actually prepares a person with an action. Sometimes the action can be hereditary or genetic too, but in operant conditioning, the person can have some incentives, like if a person takes drugs he will have some kind of mental peace for a certain amount of time, though it will adversely affect his health in a later period.

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The researches in the field are really complex and not many researchers are involved in these subjects too. Actually, the researches in these topics start from the neurological structures of a person and they can add up to different streams of psychology and physiology. But in recent times The dependence on drugs and nerve agents has grown in many corners of the World due to the acute work pressure from the workplace and the rising competition everywhere. So these factors are contributing as operant conditioning to drug addictions and other bad habits that directly affect health. This can extinct the persons who are in the grasp of these agents. Psychological counseling and other physical activities can help a person to keep away from the drugs and other substances that can take adverse effects on health (Stepney, 2007).

In the final analysis, we can say that both classical and operant conditioning are really important in psychological and neurological studies as they both provide different perspectives on phobias and addictions. With proper ways of psychological treatment, one can cure both phobia and addiction. In another word, they are two sides of a coin and can be really effective to cure these mental diseases if treated backward.


  1. Chambless, D. (2008). Generalized phobia and avoidant personality disorder: meaningful distinction or useless duplication? Depression and Anxiety 25(1), 8-19.
  2. Neale, M. (2008). Genetics of blood-injury fears and phobias: A population-based twin study. American Journal of Medical Genetics 54(4), 326-334.
  3. Rehm, J. (2010). Addiction Research Centres and the Nurturing of CreativitySubstance abuse research in a modern health care centre: the case of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Addiction 14(6), 156-178.
  4. Stepney, R. (2007). The concept of addiction: its use and abuse in the media and science. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental 11(1), 15-20.

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StudyCorgi. "Phobias and Addictions as Manifestations of the Human Mind Weakness." December 4, 2021.


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